Lawmakers deciding the future of Detroit schools accepted thousands from pro-charter DeVos family
At the same time Detroit Public Schools teachers were rallying in front of the Fisher Building on May 3 for pay promised to them and a forensic audit of their district, lawmakers in Lansing were gathering to discuss the district's future.
While the 10 a.m. House Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday has been highlighted as the forum where 18 GOP representatives voted "no"on a motion for a forensic audit of the district, the meeting is in fact far more significant than a single vote. The meeting, attended by lawmakers and parties interested in the legislation, showcases just who the bigger House legislation was created for. And more specifically, how money and politics work together.
The largest players in Michigan's for-profit charter schools industry were at the Capitol to give their blessing to the "Putting Students First" legislation, according to meeting minutes from that day. They were Bill Wortz,representing National Heritage Academies — Michigan's largest charter school operator, owned by billionaire J.C. Huizenga; Beth DeShone, representing the Great Lakes Education Project — a Michigan-based charter advocacy group, funded largely by the right-to-work, union-adverse DeVos family; Alicia Urbain, representing the Michigan Association of Public School Academies — a coalition for charter school leaders; and Jared Burkhart, representing the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers — an alliance for charter school sponsors, who receive public funds for sanctioning charters.
For those not following education politics in Michigan over the last few years, the list of supporters for the legislation could go unnoticed. But all of these advocates represent the interest of charter schools, the competitors to the flailing public school district the House legislation is supposed to benefit.
Digging into the legislation, we can see why charter advocates may support the Putting Students First proposal for Detroit Public Schools. While it creates many limitations for the traditional public school district — penalties for striking teachers, 401k plans instead of pensions, and a push for uncertified teachers — the legislation does very little when it comes to regulating the proliferation of charter schools in the city.
"The House plan is clearly designed to cripple DPS, not to save it but to put it in a worse position than now," says Fix The Mitten's Nick Krieger, a constitutional law attorney, who has been focusing on the current legislative plans for Detroit.
Krieger points out that under the House and Senate plans local property tax dollars, typically earmarked for students (per-pupil funding), are getting Lawmakers deciding the future of Detroit schools accepted thousands from pro-charter DeVos family | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times: